When a lot of the press around strata living centres on the problems that can arise (think noise, parking, pets), it’s not surprising that owners and tenants alike are increasingly focused on finding a ‘nice’ strata community to live in.
Recreational facilities and award winning architectural designs are no longer sufficient incentive to put up with unfriendly neighbours or power-hungry committees. There are those who are more interested in a strata community’s friendly feel than its physical perks.
The committee has an important role to play in the creation and maintenance of a nice place to live by encouraging engagement of lot owners and residents in the community. Too often, however, the focus is solely on increasing lot owner participation through the exercise of their voting rights. While this is unquestionably important for the smooth running of a strata community, zeroing in on this area ignores a very important segment of the strata community.
Tenants make up approximately 50% of residents in strata communities but are often disengaged from the happenings of the strata community because of a perceived us/them divide. The fact that they are not financially invested in the long term of the scheme somehow breeds the idea that their engagement and cooperation in the current activities of the community isn’t needed.
The valuable contribution tenants make to a community has been recognised in the recent changes to New South Wales strata laws. In it, if tenants occupy more than half the lots, they are allowed to elect a tenant’s representative to attend strata committee meetings (although, they will not have any voting rights).
A change of focus from ‘owner engagement’ to ‘resident engagement’ is only going to become more recognised. With current trends of affordability, it is predicted that the proportion of the population renting will increase significantly, and renters will be renting for longer. A third of lessees have already rented for more than 10 years. These long term renters are equally as concerned as owners occupiers, and arguably more concerned than investment owners, with the maintenance of a functional, stable and harmonious strata community.
Though tenants are precluded from voting in strata decisions, committees should try to identify opportunities through which they can be involved and contribute to the community. Interested and engaged tenants will have ideas and experiences to share, and are a valuable resource for committees to tap into.
A proactive welcome to new tenants is one way to avoid potential alienation. Sharing building information and by laws so that renters get up to speed quickly on your strata policies will help them feel included, in control and informed with what they need to comply with the community’s expectations.
A communication medium that facilitates communication with all residents, for example a private or closed Facebook page, should be used in conjunction with normal owner notifications methods. This way all residents, not just owners, are advised effectively and promptly of any maintenance, planned works or disruptions within the community.
Many projects and sub-committees can harness the power of interested tenants:
It is becoming apparent that having a roof over one’s head is no longer enough, even if the roof is architecturally designed. Owners and tenants are looking for a nice place to live – a community experience – from their strata scheme. Committees who focus on engaging ALL residents can go a long way to transforming a building full of strangers into a community.